Movie Night: Phantom
Having seen it with an audience of two other paying audience members, I predict it will further live up to its namesake by quickly disappearing from theaters without a trace.
Demi (Ed Harris, Game Change) is a retiring Russian submarine commander during the cold war. He and his crew embark upon a mysterious mission in the late ’60s. Last minute crew additions, Bruni (David Duchovny,Californiacation) and Tyrtov (Sean Patrick Flannery, Dexter) force control of the submarine away from Demi and embark upon a secret mission to start World War III with a nuclear strike. Only Demi and his top men stand between the mad men and a global disaster.
The biggest issue I took with Phantomis something that my coworker pointed out to me was a very ’80s film conceit. The movie is cast with several A-list American stars playing Russians with Russian names in Russian military clothing piloting a Russian sub, and yet they speak in their natural regional American accents the entire time. It was so distracting and phony. Sure, fake Russian accents would have been awkward as well, but every time Ed Harris or David Duchovny mentioned “the Americans” I thought…sure, guys, just keep treading that water. The only way it would have felt authentic is as a Russian film subtitled in English, and I doubt they could have found the funding to make that, so I guess the only solution I’m offering is that the movie shouldn’t have been made at all.
That’s not the only problem I had with the film though. This picture gets off to a rough start, has a really excellent and intense act 2, and then implodes spectacularly across the finish line. The dialogue begins by stringing together a bunch of convincing military jargon and then threading in a series of cliches. The plot then hobbles slowly forward, not letting us know what’s at stake for a good 40 minutes, leaving an entire opening act that feels arbitrary and adrift, although the submarine protocol is pretty neat to watch. Also, Harris’s character keeps having weird hallucinations that also feel distracting and unnecessary, though they do turn out to be vital to a sub plot that I didn’t particularly care for and made me instantly lose faith in my protagonist. Act 2, with allegiances flipping and a series of nail biting plot-lines all firing at once, was outstanding suspense filmmaking, every minute of which I thoroughly enjoyed, but it doesn’t make up for a stunningly blah, straight-to-video ending. They change the rules of realism they’ve been playing by for the whole movie in an effort to try and force some quick catharsis. It has the exact opposite effect.
My personal opinion: I’d skip this one.